Not gonna lie, y’all…I’m feeling very vulnerable this week…
“You’ve got to see and be seen to get ahead in this business.” – Tony Hall (also known as Dad)
The business he was talking about was the bar and nightclub business. Dad owned a successful bar for many years called – ironically – Tony’s in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. And he lived by this mantra.
When he was at the peak of his Tuscaloosa celebrity, he had a very distinctive look. He always wore a beard and had a ponytail halfway down his back.
I’ll never forget this. We were fishing on Lake Tuscaloosa one sweltering June afternoon. There was a boat maybe 500 or so yards from ours. We fished in silence for a few moments until I hear this voice bellowing from across the lake.
“HEY TONY!” It was a customer who recognized his hair.
This was something I never admitted to Dad when he was alive. But that embarrassed me tremendously.
In my own life at the time, I was trying like hell not to be seen at all. Not just on this fishing trip but seen at all.
Kid Ryan was an excellent hider.
I’d spent all my waking hours in my bedroom with the door closed and playing my NES. And watching the Atlanta Braves lose another game in the 80s. I’d only come out when dinner was ready, and then I’d go right back in.
Friends? Please! I could count the friends I had on one hand with plenty of fingers left over.
And girls? Forget about it! Girls wouldn’t even look my way.
I was terrified of people hurting me. Make no mistake, plenty of people hurt me. They hurt my feelings, and they hurt my soul.
Honestly, a lot of the hurt came from inside those four walls of that little white house on the dead-end street.
I’m writing this article, sitting beside a charming little pond near Greenwich, CT. There’s just something about the magic of water that spurs me creatively more than anything.
But I’m also feeling rather vulnerable right now. I’m feeling exposed and scared. And I’m fighting like hell to keep from being seen, when I so desperately need and want to be seen.
For example, I started wearing a beard a few years ago because I wanted to hide some things about my face that I didn’t like. Namely, that my face was so damn puffy and fat!
I started gaining weight when I was around 7th and 8th grade. I was never what you’d call skinny or thin. I weighed over ten pounds at birth.
The weight really started to pile on around the time I was in 8th grade. The perfect time for me to be haunted by my body image.
I’ll give you a great example of something that illustrates just how damning this can be.
I was in 8th grade. This was 6th-period band. The teacher was out of the room leaving the students to their own devices.
I used this opportunity to work on some homework. And that was probably my mistake.
I heard some cackling over my shoulder. And I turned around to see what the commotion was.
Two future felons of America were right behind me. And one of them asked me:
“What size bra you wear, man?” I saw red!
I stood up, got in his face, and asked “What did you say about me?” Only I didn’t say it but croaked it.
Late puberty, y’know…
I thought better of it and moved on. But the thought remained.
I share the story about my Dad earlier because of something that 41-year old Ryan is working on right now. And frankly, it scares the shit out of me.
I’m trying my best to see and to be seen. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about exposure…I’m talking about being Seen.
I’ve taken baby steps and some small practices in order to get this started.
The first thing I took on was shaving my beard. As the clippers went over my face, I got this terrifying feeling I was subject to the Samson effect. That when I lose my beard, I’d lost my power.
I had prepared myself for snarky feedback about why I shaved. Especially from the people I see regularly.
You know…it’s been universally accepted. I only got one smartass comment from someone on Facebook kicking me out of the beard gang.
And the crazy thing is that my face isn’t nearly as puffy and fat as it used to be. I’ve still got some ways to go, but it isn’t nearly as pronounced as it used to be.
Second, I took on a six-week body transformation challenge. Since early July I have been attending these insane (but surprisingly fun) HIIT cardio classes in White Plains, NY. Eating clean and drinking tons of water.
As of this writing, I’m officially down 16 pounds and something like 4.2% body fat.
My goal was 25 pounds in these six weeks, and I have my doubts that I’m going to make that. But it won’t be for lack of trying.
And the final thing I’ve taken on so far is getting as real and vulnerable about my shame around my body image, dating, and sex on as big a platform as I have ever had. Both on Emily Perkins’ internet radio show, and in real life.
Honestly, I have discovered a big block. People can see me now! And this terrifies me!
Now I have to deliver. Now I have to be this real, authentic, and vulnerable guy because that’s what’s expected from me now.
But in actuality, all I really want to do is to be back in my bedroom in Tuscaloosa saving the princess.
The moral of my story is this: being seen has risks. You may get hurt. You may get embarrassed. And you may fall on your face! But it won’t be for lack of trying.
Here are a couple things I plan to take on over the next few months.
– I’ve been feeling this call to take dancing lessons. I’m the most uncoordinated guy around. But I’ve been feeling the call. I don’t know what it is.
– Here’s a little-known fact about me. While I’m no Philip Bailey, I’m not a terrible singer. If I find a song in my range, I can hold my own. I’m just saying, it may be time to try Karaoke.
I share all this stuff to let you know that I’m one of you. I still struggle with self-worth and fear. And I’m doing the work to shift these filters. If you knew the work I had to take on in order to be as present and connected in that interview…
We’re all in process on something. Let my process support yours.
I’m offering 5 Test Drive sessions for the rest of August. Slots are filling fast, grab yours today!
[email protected] is the email. Email me, let’s schedule that Test Drive on your life!
– My group coaching seminar – Own your Voice! Own Your Life! – is open for registration now. Go to royalheartscoaching.com/voice to sign up. $300 is a steal at 3 times the price!
– My interview on Love Living Radio is now up. It’s a powerful conversation about how we relate to our bodies. How a negative body image can affect your health. And how a negative body image affects your relationships and sex life. It’s a side of me that I don’t usually show publicly, but I’m glad I did it.
P.S.: Do yourselves a favor: FORGIVE YOURSELF! Forgive yourself for everything that happened, hasn’t happened, and you think could happen. I’m just saying, this is what I did.